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Acute hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that lasts for less than six months. Usually people diagnosed with hepatitis B will get over the virus within a short period of time and will not need any treatment. In some cases, acute hepatitis B will become chronic if a person does not recover within six month's time. Children are more likely than adults to have a case of chronic hepatitis B.
The hepatitis B virus, or HBV, causes acute hepatitis B. HBV is contagious and is spread through bodily fluids such as blood and semen. Someone can pass hepatitis B to another during unprotected sex, by sharing items such as toothbrushes or razors, or by sharing intravenous drug needles. A person who works in a hospital or doctor's office can be exposed to hepatitis B when changing a patient's bandages or if she is accidentally stuck with a needle. Mothers infected with hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies during birth.
Usually, symptoms of an acute hepatitis B infection appear three months after a person becomes infected. Common symptoms of acute hepatitis B include jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, pain in the stomach, and dark urine. Some people may have a fever, nausea, and vomiting.
If a person knows that she has been exposed to HBV, she should see her doctor right away for a preventative treatment. In most cases, a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours of exposure greatly reduces a person's risk of developing an infection. If acute hepatitis B does develop, the doctor will not prescribe any medications, as the body should rid itself of the virus within a few months. A doctor may prescribe medications to help a patient cope with symptoms, such as fever or nausea, during the infection. He should also monitor the liver and perform blood tests to make sure the body is clear of the virus.
Acute hepatitis B can be prevented thanks to a vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given to infants, but can be given to anyone who has not yet received it. A person will receive a total of three injections over a course of six months. Those who are not vaccinated can reduce their chances of getting hepatitis B by using condoms, limiting the number of sexual partners they have, and not sharing drug needles or personal items.